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Field sobriety tests (FSTs) in Florida play a critical role in the DUI arrest process, providing law enforcement with preliminary evidence of impairment. 

Between 2009 and 2018, the CDC documented 7,573 fatalities in Florida resulting from crashes involving DUI, impacting drivers, passengers, and pedestrians alike. The state experienced a significant number of DUI incidents, totaling 44,001 in 2022. These tests serve as an initial measure to prevent further tragedies on the road. Moreover, such statistics underscore the pressing need for reliable support and guidance through these trying times.

With dedicated Florida-based criminal defense attorneys like Fletcher & Fletcher by your side, you gain more than just legal representation; you receive a compassionate ally committed to helping you navigate every step of your DUI case. Rick and Jenna Fletcher understand the emotional toll and the stakes involved, offering the support needed to face these challenges head-on.

What Is A Field Sobriety Test in Florida and How Does It Work?

Law enforcement in Florida administers various physical and cognitive tasks through field sobriety tests to assess a motorist’s possible impairment from alcohol or drugs. These evaluations aim to gauge an individual’s balance, coordination, and mental sharpness—abilities that the consumption of intoxicating substances can impair.

Although these tests offer a chance to demonstrate sobriety, their real intent is to collect evidence against the individual, introducing an additional layer of complexity to an already challenging situation.

Common Types of Field Sobriety Tests

In the United States, police often use three main tests to see if drivers are impaired:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: The officer moves an object, like a pen, and watches the driver’s eyes as they follow it. They’re looking for unusual eye movements and other signs that might show impairment from alcohol or drugs.
  • Walk-and-Turn Test: The driver must walk in a straight line, one foot in front of the other, for nine steps, turn around, and walk back the same way. The officer checks for mistakes like not walking straight, not keeping arms at their sides, or not turning correctly.
  • One-Leg Stand Test: The driver has to stand on one leg for about 30 seconds. The officer watches for signs of trouble, like hopping or needing to put the foot down.

Besides these, officers might also use other tests like touching your nose with your finger, standing still with your eyes closed, or counting backward. These are different from the standard, but they are good to know.

If you’re facing such tests and need help understanding your rights or what comes next, lawyers like Rick and Jenna Fletcher can provide the assistance you need during this time.

What Happens if I Take a Field Sobriety Test in Florida?

If you take a field sobriety test and an officer deems you impaired, they may arrest you for DUI. As previously mentioned, courts can use the field sobriety test results as evidence against you. However, it’s crucial to recognize that these tests aren’t always accurate. Weather, road, and medical conditions can influence the results.

Reasons Drivers Submit to Field Sobriety Tests

Some drivers might opt to undergo a field sobriety test for several reasons, including:

  • Cooperation: Demonstrating compliance with law enforcement could lead to a more favorable outcome.
  • Confidence in Sobriety: Drivers certain of their sobriety might undergo the test to dispel any suspicions and circumvent further probing or arrest.
  • Lack of Knowledge: Unaware of their rights, some drivers might feel obligated to perform the test, mistakenly believing it to be mandatory.
  • Fear of Consequences: Fearing the repercussions of refusal, such as heightened suspicion or arrest, drivers might submit to the test in hopes of defusing the situation.
  • Perception of Fairness: Believing in the fairness and objectivity of these tests, some drivers might see them as a means to prove their innocence.

Pros of Field Sobriety Tests

While various factors can influence the decision to undergo these tests, there are notable advantages to the implementation and execution of field sobriety tests, such as the following:

  • Objective Evidence: Field sobriety tests offer tangible, objective evidence of a driver’s impairment, which can be pivotal in court proceedings.
  • Safety: Conducting these tests helps identify and remove impaired drivers from the roads, enhancing safety for all road users.
  • Standardization: The standardized nature of these tests ensures consistency, as all drivers are subjected to the same tests under similar conditions, aiming for fairness in assessment.

Cons of Field Sobriety Tests

With the pros outlined above, you must remember that field sobriety tests also come with several drawbacks, all of which you need to consider:

  • Inaccuracy: These tests can be influenced by various external factors, making them not always reliable indicators of impairment.
  • Subjectivity: The results of field sobriety tests can vary significantly based on the officer’s interpretation, leading to potential bias.
  • Coercion: Drivers might feel compelled to perform well in these tests, which can lead to results that do not accurately reflect their state.

In Florida, drivers are not legally required to undergo field sobriety tests when stopped on suspicion of DUI. Many criminal defense and DUI lawyers advise politely declining these tests, as they can often be more detrimental than beneficial in court.

What Happens if I Refuse a Field Sobriety Test?

Refusing a field sobriety test allows the officer to rely on other observations (e.g., speech, behavior, alcohol odor) to assess impairment. While there’s a right to refuse these tests, it’s crucial to understand the potential consequences

Refusing a chemical test, such as a breathalyzer, comes with its own set of penalties, including a one-year suspension of the driver’s license for a first offense and the potential for increased DUI penalties upon conviction.

Thoughtfully weighing these factors is key when faced with the decision to perform a field sobriety test.

Charged for DUI After a Field Sobriety Test? Contact Fletcher & Fletcher Today!

Facing a DUI charge in Florida can have serious consequences, making it essential to consult with knowledgeable legal professionals promptly. At Fletcher & Fletcher, as a husband-and-wife team, we have years of dedicated experience defending clients against DUI allegations. We cover multiple areas in Florida, ensuring we can assist you no matter your location.

Contact us at (727) 369–9850 to arrange a consultation where we can explore your legal options together and start building a solid defense on your behalf.

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